Nahal Hever is a desert river that flows to the Dead sea between Ein Gedi and Masada. On the face of the cliffs above the brook are two caves (cave of letters and cave of horror) which were used as hiding place for the Jewish rebels during the Bar-Kochba revolt against the Romans. Roman siege camps were constructed on the top of the cliffs above each of the caves.
Nahal Hever flows into the Dead sea, south of Ein Gedi and north of Masada. An aerial map of the Nahal Hever brook is shown below, indicating the major points on interest.
You can point & click on the purple points to navigate to the selected point.
The excavations in the caves of Nahal Hever revealed that the caves were in use during that period. This indicated a dense settlement in the area.
Revolts against the Romans
During the Bar-Kochva revolt (Bar Kokhba 132-135AD) the Jewish rebels hid in the caves of Nahal Hever. The Romans erected siege camps and the rebels and their families died inside the caves.
Surveys in 1953-55 were conducted here and revealed amazing remains from the revolt. Excavations held in 1960-1961 and found many remains from this period - skeletons, household tools, weapons, letters and scrolls.
All photos by Shay Shtickgold.
In the northern cave, named as the "cave of letters" (Ma'arat Ha'Igrot) due to the large amount of scrolls and letters that were excavated in the caves. There are three openings to the cave, which merge inside into a 150M long cave.
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The view from the cliff above the cave of letters is seen below.
A cave on the south cliff is called the "cave of horrors" (Ma'arat Ha'Eimim) due to the dozens of skulls and skeletons that were discovered in the cave, dating to the Bar-Kochba revolt (2nd C AD). The bones were of the warrior men, their wives and children, who died here during the siege. The cave was found in a survey in 1953 using a 100M long ladder rope, and in 1960-1961 the cave was systematically explored.
On the top of the hill, above the cave of horrors, is a monument honoring the memory of the warriors and their families who died in the caves during the Bar Kochba revolt. Unfortunately, it was vandalized, as seen in the photo below (taken in 2005).
The smashed monument reads: "Here lay the bones of the warriors of Bar-Kochba who fought the Romans in Judea desert during 132-135AD, them and their families. The bones were collected in the caves of letters and the caves of horrors and buried in a ceremony on May 11, 1982.". Note that the vandalized monument was repaired in 2008.
The remains of the small Roman camp is also located nearby, and was constructed in a form which resembles the Massada Roman siege camps - an area closed by a fence, with bases of rectangular structures and round bases for tents, traces of stoves and other camp elements.
Nahal - Hebrew for brook or river (Wadi in Arabic). Biblical reference: (Ecclesiastes 1 7): "All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full". This verse is very much applicable to the Dead Sea - it is indeed not full...